Money and renovation

I feel a need to talk numbers. However, finances are a very personal topic, it’s sort of like talking about the details of your last doctor’s appointment. Yet, without numbers the topic remains vague.
In 2007 I documented the renovation of my house. Prior to that in 2003 the kitchen was done. Both jobs were done by David of Something Different, and I’m quite happy with David’s work and his work ethic. The kitchen cost about $17,000 and the main renovation was around $100K (hello big fat 2nd mortgage), counting the work done before and after with heating and cooling. The house is a little over 1,000 sq feet, not counting the cellar. So those are the numbers.
So when I hear others say that a renovation for a certain house of roughly the same size would be $200K to $300K to renovate, I’m not totally convinced. Not that you can’t spend that much, but it seems you can spend less. People with more building daring have spent less, being their own general contractor, saving $40K, working with the same sq. footage as my house. From my own experience, I know I could have saved some money by cutting out some luxuries. Such as the heated floor in the kitchen, the tile from Expo, the fancy bathroom with the claw foot tub, the separate heating and cooling systems. Of course there are some things I did and didn’t do that would have bumped the price up. I didn’t replace the section 8 windows, they work, the eco-building guy said they were acceptable, I’ll replace them later. I used low VOC paint, which costs more than regular Home Depot paint. On the other hand, some wonderful volunteer helpers and I painted the house, saving on labor.
Labor, that was a majority of my expenses. David bills by labor and materials. If I wanted we could have come up with a single bid price for the whole job but it would have been more. But with David’s way I saw what I was paying for, and man are men expensive, even the unskilled ones.
Lastly, a thing that I think really helped in price was I was renovating the house for me, not some unknown buyer whose tastes and preferences are unknown. I don’t need stainless steel anythings, so I won’t pay top dollar. I prefer Corian to granite, Formica would have been acceptable too. I am okay with used items, like the tub and the radiators. Also okay with the low end barber carpet. I like IKEA, and we hacked them a bit and gave them a non-IKEA look. My tastes were not an unknown factor, so then money could be targeted towards things I actually cared about or whatever David convincingly talked me into, like the heart pine floors.

7 thoughts on “Money and renovation”

  1. At the time, and my memory is fuzzy on exact numbers, Corian was somewhere between $30somthing and $50something a square foot, depending on style. Plain white way cheaper than the spilled pepper look I chose. Granite, about $60something a sq. ft. It may have gotten cheaper now, now that it seems to be a prerequisite for every new kitchen these days. However, I wanted a countertop more forgiving with plates, glass, knives not cut on proper cutting boards and my other bad habits.

  2. I ve done 2 kitchens with granite tile & its worked out nicely. It looks great, has all of the granite benefits plus if it cracks, i just have to replace a tile. cost is about the same as the cheap laminate stuff.

  3. Very interesting post. I plan to buy in the neighborhood and it will most likely be a property that needs some work. It is interesting to read other people’s experiences, espectially post facto, and what they thought was worthwhile, what wasn’t, what hurdles they encountered, etc.

  4. I have many friends in the neighborhood who are pretty handy. We help each other out with various jobs and learn along the way. Painting is easy and cheap. Installing recessed lighting is also easy, and not that expensive. I’ve put off the major major bath and kitchen stuff, opting for cheap interim solutions instead. Even so, my kitchen is definitely may favorite room. I exposed some pipes and brick [painted the pipes, except for the copper ones] and just got creative with it. I still have the crappy counters, but they too shall pass with time. Lately I’ve been talking bathroom floor a lot with a friend and pondering how bad it will be when we rip out the cheap laminate flooring.

    My advise is to make friends with people [especially neighbors who may have a similar floorplan] who have been through the type of renovations that you want to do. Look at the before and after [either the before in your house, or their photos] and consider what it is worth for you. Depending on how long you want to stay in the house you will want to consider both resale and personal use. Two places you can’t skimp are pumbling and wiring. The best advise I can give is to live in a place a while before you start investing too heavily. That way you get to know the house, and can be a better judge of how to set things up. You really need to plan ahead with venting, electric, and plumbing bk you don’t want to keep ripping up walls, or relocating pipes.

  5. Sorry I can’t spell.

    But also, if your woodwork is painted and you want to expose it, consider the type of wood, detail in the wood work, and condition of the woodwork. A friend of mine lives in a house that went through three fires, and he has replaced much of the woodwork. He stained the new stuff to match the old [which he stripped]. It is damn hard to tell the difference, and cheaper than dipping the old stuff. Try Second Chance for old household decor, and Community Forklift for new and old stuff. You can also donate many house parts to Community Forklift and deduct the cost while saving the stuff from the landfill.

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